Summer Sunday: Mountain Girl’s Logic for City Cycling

Summer Sunday: Mountain Girl’s Logic for City Cycling

It’s summer; it’s time to ride. For cyclists this means always. The family is going to Durango for the weekend? You ride to Dolores and have them pick you up. Grocery shopping in Montrose? You bring your bike and ride home. Meeting for dinner in town? You arrange the delivery of a change of clothes, then find a single track that will get you there. In the summer, the bike, or bikes as is usually the case, become additional members of the family.


And, it’s no different when you travel to the city. This past weekend, I found myself in Denver for my daughter’s gymnastic meet. The schedule worked out perfectly to fit in a long ride Saturday morning. The problem: Where to go? I have ridden in Denver over the years, but have always followed a local. My local was out of town.

I wanted to ride a 50-mile loop to Golden and up Lookout Mountain, a 5-mile climb with 1,250 foot gain in elevation—not bad for city riding. I remembered the last time I had ridden it, there were a lot of turns on backstreets, linking bike paths, and crossing overpasses. Negotiating the route was much more difficult than riding to Lizard Head and back  — ride three miles to Society Turn, take a left and go straight for 12, turn around and come back. City riding entails lots of subtleties, and holding a map in your hand and trying to ride is not a cyclist’s ideal.

I went through all of my options.

Download someone else’s route on Strava.

I really need to learn to use Strava.

Follow my husband’s written directions from someone else’s route on Strava.

I went the wrong way out the door.

Use Google maps route finding app for bike routes.

This could work, if my phone battery doesn’t die and Siri directs me to Lookout Mountain, Colorado instead of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.


As I was going over my options, wasting time, watching the day get hotter, and envisioning exactly what I knew was going to happen —I would ride in circles, stop at every merge, trail, split and turn of the bike trail to check I was going the right way —my sister-in-law, a non-cyclist, said, “Why don’t you just go out to the bike trail, start riding, then meet a crew going to Lookout Mountain and follow them.”

That was the best strategy of the day.

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I headed out excited about the fail-proof plan. I negotiated my way around the Cherry Creek bike trail, connected successfully to the South Platte Trail and found my target. I began speeding up or “attacking” as cyclists call it, to catch the guy in front of me so I could hopefully follow him to Lookout Mountain. Funny thing is, when a girl starts to catch up to a dude, he is not biologically wired to intuitively slow down, let you catch him and begin a friendly conversation. Instead, he will begin to hammer with the goal to drop you. If you do catch aforementioned dude, he will still try and drop you for the next two miles. But, if you hang on, then you will make a friend and get the local back road route to your destination. It’s analogous to dogs sniffing butts.

Joe did in fact become my friend, and lead me right to the bottom of Lookout Mountain. But, he had to split off, leaving me to make a new friend on the way home. I learned that dudes in Grateful Dead bike jerseys are a sure bet to help you on your way, albeit a little slower than those wearing racing kits.


A few other tips for city riding—oil your clips or practice your track stand. In Telluride, you can ride for hours and never clip out. In the city, you’ve got stop signs, stop lights, light rails, roller bladers. and dancing roller bladers.

But, regardless, always bring your bike. Even if you have to prove yourself, men decked out head-to-toe in spandex aren’t in the best position to reject a friend.

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